WZVN-TV, virtual channel 26 (UHF digital channel 41), is an ABC-affiliated television station serving Fort Myers, Florida, United States that is licensed in Naples (as such, it is one of two Fort Myers-based stations licensed in Naples, alongside CW affiliate WXCW channel 46).
The station is owned by Montclair Communications; the Waterman Broadcasting Corporation, which owns NBC affiliate WBBH-TV (channel 20), operates WZVN-TV under a local marketing agreement. The two stations share studio facilities located on Central Avenue in Fort Myers; WZVN's transmitter is located along SR 31 in unincorporated southeastern Charlotte County; a backup transmitter is located in Bonita Springs. The station is also available on Comcast and CenturyLink channel 7. There is a high definition feed provided on Comcast digital channel 431 and CenturyLink digital channel 1007.
Known on-air as "ABC 7", the branding is derived from WZVN's primary cable position in the market on Xfinity and most other cable providers in the area. This practice stems in part from the area's exceptionally high cable penetration rate, which is one of the highest in the United States.
The station first signed on the air on August 21, 1974 as WEVU (a phonetic translation of "WE VieU[W]"); it was the third television station to sign-on in Fort Myers. The station was owned by Gulfshore Television Corporation, it immediately took over the ABC affiliation which beforehand was relegated to off-hour secondary clearances through WBBH-TV (channel 20) and CBS affiliate WINK-TV (channel 11). However, viewers with a good antenna could also watch the full ABC schedule from Miami's WPLG, West Palm Beach's WPEC, or WLCY-TV (now CBS affiliate WTSP) in St. Petersburg. The station's original studios were located off of US 41 in Bonita Springs, The station's original transmitter facilities were located southeast of Bonita Springs, near the Collier and Lee County line. This location allowed the station to provide a stronger signal into Naples and Southern Collier County as compared with the market's other broadcast outlets.
Gulfshore Television sold the station to Caloosa Television, a subsidiary of The Home News Company in 1978. In 1987, the station moved its operations to a new building located on Bonita Bay Boulevard in Bonita Springs. In 1992, it was sold to FCVS Communications (then-owner of WKCH-TV, now WTNZ, in Knoxville, Tennessee and WACH in Columbia, South Carolina), which turned around and sold all three stations to Ellis Communications in 1993. In 1994, WEVU entered into a local marketing agreement with WBBH and moved its operations into that station's facility on Central Avenue. At the time, both stations began identifying by their cable channel slots, with channel 26 starting to use a variant of the circle 7 logo. WZVN's version has the ABC logo attached to the bottom left corner boxed in by a black rectangle. Unlike the more common varieties, such as that used by network flagship WABC-TV in New York City, the "seven" numeral is curved differently. The station changed its call letters to the current WZVN-TV (a phonetic translation of "Z[S]eVeN") on October 16, 1995 (the WEVU calls later resided on a now-defunct local Class A station).
Ellis Communications merged with Raycom Media in 1996 although due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership limits in effect at the time that barred common ownership of two television stations in the same market, WZVN's license was spun off to Montclair Communications, which continued the LMA with WBBH. It should be noted that station's operator, Waterman Broadcasting, holds an investment interest in Montclair Communications even though the two companies file separate financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. As of August 2009, its website is now completely operated by WBBH as a hybrid of that station's web address with a different color scheme.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|26.1||720p||16:9||WZVN HD||Main WZVN-TV programming / ABC|
On June 6, 2011, WZVN began airing programming from MeTV (a digital multicast network that airs classic television sitcoms and dramas from the 1950s through the 1980s) on a second digital subchannel. This allotment was previously used to broadcast a standard definition simulcast of its main signal.
WZVN-TV became the first television station in the market to launch a high definition digital signal on October 31, 2002. The station discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 26, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 41, using PSIP to display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 26.
WZVN-TV presently broadcasts 33½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays and three hours on Saturdays and Sundays). Between the two, WZVN and WBBH air a combined twelve hours of news on weekdays and 4½ hours on weekends. In addition to the main studios, WZVN and WBBH operate a Collier County Bureau on Tamiami Trail North (U.S. 41/SR 45) in Naples. The two stations operate a Baron weather radar at the main facilities that is known on WZVN as "StormWarn 7 Live Doppler". The radar has a range of 300 miles and can survey approaching storms in three dimensions.
In 1994, WZVN and WBBH merged their news departments, and began having news reporters appear on both stations. Resources such as video footage and stories also began to be shared between the stations. During this period, each station maintained separate unique sets at the Central Avenue facilities and featured a distinct on-air style. There were primary personalities (such as news anchors) that would only appear on one station. The joint operation was billed as the Eyewitness News Network. It should be known that if WZVN chose not to become a junior partner in the LMA with WBBH, the station would have been required to shut down its news department. Traditionally, WBBH tended to cover more stories from Charlotte County, while WZVN had a slight Collier County focus since it is licensed to Naples and had the former analog transmitter located further south than the area's other television outlets.
Today, WZVN continues the practice of maintaining its own primary on-air team on weekdays that only appear on the station. Otherwise, all other personnel – including most reporters – are shared amongst one another. Its newscasts are broadcast from a separate set at the Central Avenue facility, allowing it to have a different on-air identity and graphics scheme from WBBH. Compared with that station, channel 26's newscasts usually tend to air in a more flashier fast-paced format with promotions referring to the station providing more news coverage in 30 minutes than the market's other stations. WBBH traditionally covers more investigative and consumer stories through its "NBC 2 Investigators" unit. On weekends, there are separate news and sports anchors, but the same meteorologists are seen on both WZVN and WBBH. This is possible because the two stations maintain individual sets and do not always air local newscasts at the same timeslots.
Since it was the first station to sign on in Southwest Florida and was the only one located on the VHF dial, WINK-TV has long been the most watched television station according to Nielsen. One of the best known former personalities and a veteran of Southwestern Florida broadcasting is Harry Horn. He lost his battle with ALS in August 2005. During major hurricanes, most recently Charley and Wilma, WZVN and WBBH combined their news resources to provide 24-hour continuous coverage. Commercial breaks are dropped for several hours preceding and following landfall. Coverage is simulcast on both stations and a common live video stream is featured on both stations' websites. During previous years, WBBH's news set was used during hurricanes along with both WBBH and WZVN's weather sets. As of 2007, WZVN's high definition news set is now used in the event of a hurricane as its internal location at the Central Avenue facility provides the best protection against damaging winds.
On August 14, 2006 through a news share agreement, the station began producing a nightly primetime newscast for cable-exclusive "WNFM" which eventually become the market's MyNetworkTV affiliate on September 5. Known as ABC 7 Gulfshore News at 10 on My TV 8, the broadcast was the first competitor to Fox affiliate WFTX-TV, whose 10 p.m. newscast has been long dominant in the ratings. However, as a result of Comcast's frequent technical difficulties (as the cable company operates "WNFM") which hindered the show's ratings as well as the March 26, 2007 launch of a WINK-produced 10 p.m. newscast that quickly garnered enough viewership to emerge as a strong second place in the 10 p.m. timeslot, WZVN canceled the program on May 25, 2007.
On July 12, 2007, WZVN upgraded its newscasts to 16:9 widescreen enhanced definition. On October 20, however, rival WINK-TV became the first station in Southwestern Florida to broadcast news programming in high definition. WZVN would itself upgrade its newscasts to HD on July 19, 2008. On October 26 of that year, several changes occurred to WZVN and WBBH's news programming in order to better compete with WINK-TV. WZVN dropped the first hour of its weekday morning newscast (as of 2012, that hour has since been restored) and a mid-morning newscast at 10 a.m. WBBH debuted a new hour-long midday broadcast at 11 a.m. while keeping its hour-long noon newscast. Meanwhile, WZVN added an hour-long weekday morning newscast at 9 a.m. On September 8, 2009, the station began producing a half-hour 7 p.m. newscast on weeknights to compete against WINK-TV's newscast airing in the same timeslot. On January 16, 2012, WZVN debuted an hour-long newscast at 5 p.m. weeknights, which incidentally directly competes with WBBH's own 5 p.m. newscast. On the week of May 11, 2015, WZVN canceled the hour-long 5 p.m. newscast and has since replaced it with Extra at 5 p.m. and The Insider at 5:30 p.m. On September 7, 2015, WZVN's 9 a.m. newscast moved back to its original 10 a.m. time period.